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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Laxman takes India home at PSS

He is not the player with the highest number of caps like Sachin Tendulkar. He does not score runs at the rate that suits T20 more than test matches, a la Virender Sehwag. He is not called India's Wall nor has he gained recognition as the best player on the off-side like Sourav Ganguly. But, the fifth jewel in India's Formidable Five top-order batsmen has not gained recognition like the other four. Whenever there is a talk of change of strategy or plans to include an additional bowler, the name invariably that comes to the minds of all media-men (hopefully not the selection committee or team management) is that of VVS Laxman.

Today, he showed once again, what a gem he has been and why he is one whom the other legends think highly of. He has been always associated with the 281 that he scored against Australia. His exploits against Australia both at home and outside, have been talked about, very highly. But, he is not just that much. His overall record might pale against the others in the team but whenever a need arises, he is one batsmen to rise to the occasion.One look at the high scores he has chalked up will make you agree. His average in the 4th innings of a match might not be very high but he was determined to make his mark in Sri Lanka. He had not scored a century in the Emerald Isle but that did not come to his mind.

Sourav Ganguly had scored a 98 in Kandy 2001 to take India to a target of 264 against an attack including Murali and Vaas.Would the Indians repeat the feat? Sehwag was expected to play a major role in the victory but he was already back in the hut. Sri Lanka had not lost in PSS since 1994. Having a very impressive record at home, Sri Lanka knew the conditions very well. Of course, Murali's absence made a major impact on the match but India had to get the runs dictated by the Lankans. The bowlers (who were inexperienced after the withdrawls, next to the Chennai 2001 team) had done their bit by taking 20 wickets - the batsmen had to deliver now.

When India started in the morning, many thought that India were not the favorites to win the match. Jayasuriya, on air, even went to the extent of giving odds of 90-10 in favor of Sri Lanka. Sachin and Ishant started the proceedings but Randiv struck early to get rid of the night watchman. In strode VVS Laxman. The conditions were not impossible to play but the mind-games had started early in the game. Sangakkara started the proceedings with Welegedera (in place of Malinga or Mendis) along with Randiv. Even the legend gave a chance early in his innings and lost his concentration when VVS had back spasms.

But not VVS. He made sure that he took India home by his valuable contribution and stayed there when the winning runs were hit. He always seemed to have the extra seconds to judge the spin, bounce and play shots accordingly. The leg-side plan that Sangakkara deployed was to his advantage as he used his wrists to pierce the field. Sehwag's presence (he seems to be everywhere on the field) helped VVS in his running. Raina took some risks initially and played his natural game. But, it was one man who made telling contributions to the Indian score today - a Very Very Special Laxman. May he go on to provide some more gems before he calls it a day.
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